A study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, indicates patients with the novel coronavirus could remain infectious for as long as 37 days.
Experts have recommended an isolation period of 14 days after exposure, but the new research indicates the virus’s RNA was detectable in respiratory samples from survivors for a median length of 20 days after infection, according to the study.
These results carry “important implications for both patient isolation decision-making and guidance around the length of antiviral treatment,” wrote co-author Fei Zhou of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest retrospective cohort study among patients with COVID-19 who have experienced a definite outcome,” the authors wrote.
“We found that older age, higher SOFA [Sequential Organ Failure Assessment] score, and elevated d-dimer [fibrin degradation product] at admission were risk factors for death of adult patients with COVID-19,” they added. “The prolonged viral shedding provides the rationale for testing novel coronavirus antiviral interventions in efforts to improve outcomes.”
The virus has spread to 118 countries in recent months, with about 125,000 cases confirmed.
The publication of the study comes a day after tests still awaiting peer review indicated the virus may also survive in the air for several hours and remain on surfaces for up to three days.